Sunday, November 27, 2016
I John 3:3-4
All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.
As we prepare for the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ it is incumbent upon us to be mindful of the wonderful gift that God has given to all believers. His Son is the Messiah who will deliver us from all our sins and is our eternal HOPE and salvation. In this sinful world Jesus is God’s promise to free us from our sinful ways.
Hope is more difficult in an adult world where the realities sometimes frustrate and paralyze us. We forget the power of wanting and waiting. What better time than Advent to stretch toward unseen realities that await us. We must have HOPE- for family health, for a chance to help someone, for a stronger faith, for the joy and blessings of Christmas.
Heavenly Father, as we approach the day of your Son’s birth help us to feel the holiness of this time. Help us to appreciate the greatest gift of HOPE who became one of us that night in Bethlehem. Amen.
Monday, November 28, 2016
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
Through the years different symbols have held special meaning for Christians. At early Christian catacomb burials, an anchor carved on the wall attested to the steadfast faith of the departed. Before Christianity was legal, a Roman Christian encountering a stranger might identify himself as Christian by drawing a fish in the dust with his sandal. If the other party responded in kind, each knew they had just met a brother in Christ. And the most powerful man in the world, the Roman Emperor Constantine, prayed to the Christian God, then saw clouds in the sky move into the shape of a cross. He converted to Christianity, and much of the Roman Empire followed him into the faith.
But today’s scripture passage suggests another symbol, this one beautifully illustrating the hope that Christianity brings. In Jewish religious practice once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies in the Temple to meet with God and offer a sacrifice to cover the sins of the people. At no other time nor for any other purpose was an Israelite ever allowed behind that curtain on pain of immediate execution. But the Gospel writers Matthew, Mark, and Luke all recount that at the moment of Jesus’ death on the cross, the curtain was torn in two from top to bottom. Jesus, our eternal High Priest, went behind that curtain one last time and offered himself as a “forever” sacrifice for us. The barrier that for centuries had separated God and his people was gone.
So the next time your day, or your life, seems filled with darkness, just raise a blind, open a shade, or part a curtain and remember how Christ made possible the incredible – the presence of God with you always. Thanks be to God!
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver and gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”
I Peter 1:18-19
Stuart and Donna Manson
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with Him is great power to redeem. It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.
We have all likely heard the frequently repeated admonition that “timing is everything.” In this Advent scripture, the Psalmist is telling us that right timing is indeed critical in our walk with the Lord. However, trusting his timing in important life decisions or pressing needs can be very difficult in our secular, action-oriented lives. Because we impatient people want action, waiting for God may seem so passive.
To “wait for the Lord” means to pause for instruction while remaining in the present circumstance. It is a purposeful, expectant focus on God – a choice to be actively still and quiet in our hearts, listening for His voice and watching with “hope” grounded in his words for his intervention. The wait is not for events to come through his Word (the Bible) which is his instruction manual for our lives. At times, God will change a situation to redirect us, or he will motivate another person to give advice and guidance. However, we must always remember that any “voice” offering us direction must align with the Lord’s will as revealed in his Word; otherwise it is not from him.
The apostle James similarly tells us, “The testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete.” (James 1:3-4) Waiting with “patience” is a test of faith, and there is no greater producer of such patience than “faith” in the first place. The two – patience and faith – work in tandem, and we cannot have one without the other. The unifying factor between faith and patience is God’s Word. It is the evidence of faith and measure of patience. We can believe all we want and wait all we want, but if our hope and patience is not based on the Word of God, both are in vain. Faith and patience must have an object, a purpose. Therefore, like the Psalmist, let us by faith wait on the Lord and trust in his Word.
Father God, we pray that we will not only be faithful watchmen to the coming celebration of the birth of Christ, but that we will also maintain the same vigilance in waiting upon your merciful guidance and will for our lives so that we might best serve and glorify you. In Christ’s name. Amen.
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
God decided to let his people know this rich and glorious secret which he has for all people. This secret is Christ himself, who is in you. He is our only hope for glory.
Paul wants to impress upon the people of Colossae what a wonderful gift has been given to them as God revealed an age-old mystery by sending his Son, Jesus. He uses the words “glorious riches” when describing the mystery disclosed, those riches being the Spirit of Christ within us, the Spirit that creates our hope of glory.
The glorious riches of the Holy Spirit, Christ in us, are intangible, but there is no greater treasure. Through the Spirit, it is possible to find peace and meaning in life even during time of suffering. Hope for the future is sustained by the presence of the Spirit. Our capacity to feel true joy, and to share it, is deeper when we have the Spirit within us.
We can nurture that presence with prayer, study, and service. I used to find it hard to read the Bible, but during a class that focused on the Holy Spirit, I read that when we read and study scripture, it is as if we are programming ourselves for the Spirit to enter more easily. The Word makes us more receptive to the influence of the Spirit. Remembering this concept has completely changed my experience of the Bible. I feel that I need the words of scripture to be connected to God. Our minds and hearts need the data in the Bible so that the Holy Spirit can create a program for us.
Thursday, December 1, 2016
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
Do you know when God is most likely to speak to you? Is it out of the quietness or during the maelstrom of life’s daily existence? I find him unexpectedly. During the night just before sleep, during a sermon when he is busy giving me “great insights” not necessarily sermon oriented, but he is there anyway, talking, interrupting, leading my thoughts. I rarely write down these “momentous revelations” though I should. The psalmist did, thankfully, and he gives us a set of striking revelations when he pens his words of hope, strength, protection, and salvation. I am struck by the great contrast inferred by these words. Both God and Satan speak to us. Satan offers no promises to get us through this life, though. No hope to sustain us, no rock of salvation, no sustenance, no love, no joy. Never! God does speak to us of these things. His promise lives in us and lifts us. His promise is eternal. Satan’s are earthly, momentary, and transform us into eternal unhappy beings with no hope.
This Christmas season examine the contrast if you will; eternal hope-eternal hopelessness; eternal joy-eternal absence of any joy; eternal light-eternal darkness. I am glad to have a God who speaks so eloquently to me and to anyone else who will take time to listen. Eternal love, hope, salvation, oneness with God – Forever. What’s in your heart?
Friday, December 2, 2016
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
This scripture reassures us of God’s never ending support and love in times of need and crisis. I don’t think it was luck this particular message was called to our attention when we have recently seen hurricanes, floods, and world conflicts of major proportions. Today, we need to be comforted by God at every level. It is time we listen and take to heart God’s persuasive love, here and now.
Saturday, December 3, 2016
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
This passage reminds us of the salvation that appeared to all people at Christmas. We anticipate the coming of the Christ Child and once again look forward to the promise of Bethlehem. Paul’s writings also remind us that as we accept God’s grace so freely given, we are not removed from Christian responsibilities. The story of Christmas clearly demonstrates God’s giving the miraculous gift, but it also speaks of the faithful response of those who accepted it.
When the angels appeared to the shepherds, the response could have been to listen, be overwhelmed with fear, and simply stay in the fields. After all, earthly responsibilities would have dictated the shepherds remain with the sheep. Likewise, the magi could have seen the star, pondered it, retired to the comfort of their opulent rooms and saved themselves from traveling so far. The shepherds and the magi accepted their responsibilities and became part of God’s plan.
The message of Christmas is that although God sent his Son to us as the ultimate gift, we have responsibilities as Christians. Christ calls us to lead purposeful lives. He calls us to seek His light and in so doing find the path that leads from the secular, to a walk with him which is righteous, holy and purposeful. When we find that path, we are preparing the kingdom for his second coming and we are becoming part of God’s continuing plan.
Dear Lord, thank you for sending your Son to save us. Help us to fulfill our responsibilities as Christians. Help us find our path and give us strength to walk it daily with you. Amen.
Sunday, December 4, 2016
Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, Your judgments are like the great deep; You save humans and animals alike, O Lord.
In reading this passage we might assume that we are being asked to hold on; turn things over and then… Sit…Wait… which of course can be frustrating at best. But consider the idea that the psalmist is calling us to consistent action here. Commit and trust are not meant to be wait and see verbs. Could it be suggesting that we actively seek God’s guidance every day in everything and have faith he will respond? This requires more than just praying to him. We also need to listen. It turns our daily lives into a constant conversation where our activities are speaking to God and God is responding. Sometimes we may not like his response and sometimes his response may actually be that we do have to wait. But a response comes nonetheless, and in the end it will always be one that brings glory to him.
As we move through this Advent season, it is easy to forget to commit and trust. Either we are rushing to the next event, or purchasing that perfect gift, or feeling the heartache of missing a loved one. But these are the times when it is most critical to keep up the conversation. God is trying to remind us daily to talk and listen. So think about what we consider to be the secular things of Advent like the fake snow on the store windows and even Santa Claus. Maybe we could change our perspective and see them as God using those secular things to say, “Don’t forget to commit and trust, and I will be sure to respond.”
Heavenly Father, we pray that our lives would be a constant conversation with you. We praise you for your faithfulness to hear us and respond in such a way as to glorify your kingdom. We pray these things in your Son’s most precious name. Amen.
Monday, December 5, 2016
Come near me and listen to this: From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret; at the time it happens, I am there.’ And now the Sovereign Lord has sent me, endowed with his Spirit. This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.
When I read this passage, my mind immediately went back to my childhood and my mom telling me how something was for my own good. At those times whatever was for my own good – whether it was eating my vegetables, taking medicine, or being punished for my sassy mouth – it never felt like it was for my own good. Now, looking back, I am so very grateful that she was always there leading me in the right way.
As a Christian during times when we feel like we are going in circles, not making any progress and questioning if we are on the right path, how comforting are these words? Based on these verses we know that God has always been there and God will always be there to show us the right way. We can know that we are not alone and that God leads us and teaches us throughout our lives.
Gracious God, thank you for teaching us and for leading us on the right path so that we may use our lives to glorify you. Amen.
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.
This Christmas story is probably the best known, most read scripture in all the Bible. And rightly so. The verses are compelling and full of promise. The King James Version in Luke is particularly beautiful, filling us with the warmth of the season each time we read or hear them. In the Gospels, each Christmas story announces the coming of a Savior, but the narratives do not dwell on the ultimate meaning of the event.
Then comes John 3:16. In one verse, one out of 31,102 verses of the Old and New Testaments, the meaning of Christmas and the simple message of the Gospel is revealed, clearly and forcefully. Martin Luther called it, “the Gospel in miniature.” We often hear during Christmas not to forget the reason for the season. Well, here it is! Our infinite God sent the good news to an errant world in the form of his only Son who was all human and all divine – not half human and half divine – but wholly each. The Lord knew his Son would experience all the human joys and frailties while, simultaneously being fully divine, feeling the struggle between the two. More painfully, God knew how ultimately the world would reject him. What a sacrifice and what a gift, because God loves each and every one of us on this earth! Not just you and me, but everyone! Infinitely he loves us and wants us to have the gift of everlasting life.
So how do we respond to such a gift? With little understanding, we accept the gift and, in turn, we, in the image of God, love the entire world the way he loves us, in spite of our human nature to love some but not others. That is the simple but only response to Christmas.
Gracious God, who loves us beyond our understanding, we are overwhelmed by your mercy, by the gift of your Son at Christmas. As we celebrate the season, make us always mindful of how our salvation was purchased and what we owe you in return, unqualified love for everyone in the world. Amen.
Melba and Bill Richardson
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’.”
In biblical times when a king was expected to visit a part of his kingdom, he would send a messenger ahead to tell the people to prepare the road on which he was about to travel. John the Baptist was that type of messenger.
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”
Billy Graham who has often played the role of John the Baptist in our time, made these comments years ago about the problem running rampant in our world: “Our problem is not a race problem. Our basic problem is a heart problem. We need to get the heart changed – the heart transformed.”
Of course, many psychologists and sociologists have been telling us that for a long time, that for any of us to deal with the issues of our world, we have to recognize that race and poverty and war and corruption and immorality are not the problems in themselves. They are the results of the heart problems.
Personally and collectively, we know that God desires to dwell in our hearts. But are we willing to let God in completely? If we are willing to do so, would we not need to prepare our hearts, especially during this Advent season, surrounded as we are by John’s wilderness? And wilderness need not be only geographical.
We would do well, especially in these times, to heed the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord!” The preparation must go beyond our own hearts. It must be inclusive and caring, and open to new perspectives. The gospel fills and thrills us that we are on our way somewhere. Whether on earth or elsewhere, a new day is coming. By the power of God and the triumph of Christ, one day “every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low.” As my foreparents sang, “There is a bright side somewhere.” This is the Way.
Eternal God, in whose heart is love and whose will is perfect peace, we look to you from a divided world and pray for those who have lost a sense of your presence. Teach us this secret to finding peace in our hearts and of spreading it to those around us. May we heed the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.
Thursday, December 8, 2016
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”
I was asked to write a devotional using John 14:6 as the text, but as I reflected on an appropriate Advent message I was continually drawn to verse 5: “how can we know the way?” Do you ever find yourself searching for “the way” during the commercial onslaught of the Advent Season? The tinsel and glitter can be mesmerizing for me. The gifts and the tree and the logistics of Santa Claus for the grandkids are each wonderful aspects of the season, and I am blessed to have such issues with which to deal. However, I can easily lose Christ in all the excitement.
“How can I know the way?” Thomas’ question haunts me each year until I step back and remember where I put the Nativity scene and why I put it in such a prominent space. Then, I look past the tinsel and reflect upon the angel atop the tree. Next, I replace “I saw Mama Kissing Santa Claus” with “Silent Night.” Finally, I commit to set time aside each day to meditate on the Advent devotional reading. Even though my distractions are very different from those Thomas faced. The Answer is the same – Jesus is eternally the way and the truth and the life. I pray each of you can discern that truth as we celebrate our Savior’s birth.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for being the Answer. Open our hearts and minds to the power and grace of that truth. Amen.
Friday, December 9, 2016
Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.
In the 25th Psalm David offers a prayer for guidance and deliverance and reminds us that the Lord is the way to both. In verses 8-9 he reminds us “Good and upright is the Lord, therefore He instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right and teaches the humble His way.” Put another way, our Lord is fair and just. His desire is to bring the last, the least and the lost into his kingdom and is open to all who petition him. To this end, God sent his Son into the world to take away our sin; Jesus died in order to save sinners. As a man strives to follow God’s will, so will the Lord our God in his compassion bring sinners to him, and conform them to his own image, reclaiming them.
Our Christian walk is assured because we know that even though we may take another path, our Lord will be there to guide us back. In His gentle manner, he redirects our walk and provides the necessary guidance that keeps us on course with his perfect will for our lives. The remarkable thing about this is our Lord offers the same guidance, wisdom and forgiveness to anyone who confesses and seeks to know Him as their personal Savior. All of this is the result of God’s love for us. In the 25th Psalm, David shares this in a beautiful way. Let us strive to seek the guidance, forgiveness, and wisdom found in this Psalm.
Saturday, December 10, 2016
Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.
In 1991 my wife, Jean, encouraged me to listen to a book on tape, Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much. I was doubtful but I followed her advice and this led to a life changing journey. For my need, I was inspired to create a cassette tape containing five meditations that touched me deeply and added, over time, fifteen musical compositions that were spiritually inspirational to me. I came to realize years later that the title I chose, God Knows No Distance – LISTEN to Your Heart, was inspired. The cover sheets that I used for the title, given to me by my sister, just happened to contain the verse from Psalm 119:105…which is “THE WAY”.
We all experience feelings of something missing in our lives, something craved for satisfaction. As is our human-nature (worldly), this craving runs the gamut from chocolate to CEO of Godiva. This hunger is impossible to satisfy because we are not SEEKING correctly. Only by “the new and living way” of Jesus, with an open RELATIONSHIP with God, (Spiritual Growth and formation), will we gain “a true heart” which is developed “in full assurance of faith” (earnestness and dedication to loving the name of the Lord and nurtured in the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) and thus the ULTIMATE satisfaction – the abundant life. The “sprinkled clean” and “our bodies washed with pure water” is the fulfillment of our baptism as we receive the Holy Spirit who is the steadfast guide of our journey – THE DANCE OF LIFE … Weaving Sorrows and Blessings into ONE Joyful Step Henri Nouwen
We read in Genesis 1:27 “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” God abides in each and every one of us. He is hidden by our worldly heart and revealed by awe and faithful acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, as we gain “a true heart”.
The word LISTEN has been an epiphany that has inspired my journey to a true heart. My wife, Jean, was and continues to be an inspirational blessing of my journey. I consider it divine that this devotion came to fruition on October 5, 2016. Jean was called Home on October 5, 2007.
We celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary on August 28 of this year.
Loving Lord, by the words and the way of that inspirational hymn “Find Us Faithful!” Amen.
Linda and Charles Bedgood AND The Holy Spirit and Jean
Sunday, December 11, 2016
If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
It was Advent in 1233 in Greccio, Italy. St. Francis was deep in prayer, worried about how the people of this village had lost their devotion to their Lord and were cruel, greedy, and selfish, hurting each other. The Lord inspired him with an idea and Joy filled his heart. He went to his devout friend, Giovanni, and told him of the plan the Lord had inspired in him. Giovanni rejoiced and readily agreed to help St. Francis. Giovanni had a large cave on his estate and set his workmen to preparing it. St. Francis went about the village inviting everyone to the cave the following evening.
At sunset the villagers entered the cave. They were transfixed with wonder to see the cave had constantly been cleaned and was spread with fresh straw and sweet smelling herbs. There were sheep, a cow, and even a little grey donkey around the manger in the center. After all the villagers were gathered a young father and mother entered and placed their sleeping baby in the manger. St. Francis stepped forward and gently told the Christmas story of Love come down to all of us. He told how that baby grew to manhood and commanded that we love each other as He has loved us, even dying for us on the cross. He implored the villagers to follow Jesus’ way of Joy through love, kindness, and forgiveness. The villagers began to turn to each other, weeping and repenting. Suddenly, through a crack in the roof a single bright star gleamed. A clear child’s voice proclaimed “Look, it is the star of Bethlehem!” St. Francis was filled with joy and praised the Lord that the real heart and spirit of Jesus had come to Greccio that night.
Lord Jesus, may your wonderful spirit of love, forgiveness, and joy, all heavenly blessings come to us and abide with us in all the coming days and years that we may be true followers of you, Precious Lord. In the Name of Jesus, the Messiah, who was, and is, and is to come, Hallelujah! Amen!
Monday, December 12, 2016
Shout for joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious. Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you. All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing the praises of your name.”
I was once in a very sophisticated choir (way above my level). The section I preferred to sing was bass. Our very able choir director was not pleased with the way we sounded on a passage from Messiah, so he asked twenty of us to pass by the piano and individually sing a little five note passage he played. Quickly we were separated: fifteen of us on one side and only five on the other. The true bass quality of the five showed what the passage was really supposed to sound like. The other fifteen of us were really “lazy” second tenors or such.
Sometimes I wonder if we are “lazy” Christians. Do we dilute the church’s good Christian efforts? Let us strive to not be “lazy” Christians.
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.”
Advent is a season of anticipation. The birth of Jesus Christ marks the coming of the true Light who enlightens the spirits and souls of humankind. The scripture passage from Isaiah is a statement of celebration. As we anticipate the birth of Christ this Advent, let us celebrate as the people of God. With God’s help and through the spirit of Christ we are inspired to go out into our community and our world with a spirit of joy. As we abide in Christ, he gives us peace. This Advent our prayer is that God will bring us new visions of his joy and peace and will inspire us to live with his’s joy and peace as our light and guide on the paths we take in life.
Thanks be to you, O God, for this season of celebration. Enkindle within our hearts your joy and your peace now and always, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Larry and Josie McLemore
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
“I’ve got that joy, joy, joy down in my heart.” Do you remember singing that as a child? I believe that God desires that joy for each of us every day of our lives even in our sadness and grief. For me joy is like a beautiful butterfly that suddenly lights on your shoulder and you experience its wonder and beauty. Joy for me comes when I least expect it and in the most unusual places. I experienced it as my mom was making her journey from this life to the next and it was hard to explain, but I felt such peace and joy in my heart. We will experience the gift of sharing food, sweet drinks, and the giving of gifts this Christmas, and that will be fun. But the real joy God desires for us is the gift that has true meaning. Give of yourself this Christmas and you will experience this joy… Give yourself to another by inviting someone to church that has been away for some time and experience the joy of Christian hospitality. Invite someone you don’t know well to a meal in your home and experience the joy of a new friendship. Write a letter to a family member and tell them what they mean to you instead of buying that gift. You can’t put a price on that. Offer forgiveness to another and experience the joy of a restored relationship. My prayer for you is that joy overcomes and fills you this Christmas as you gaze into the manger and experience all our Lord has for you.
Heavenly Father, joy fills our hearts as we experience this most glorious and holy time of the year with our families, friends, and our church family. Inspire and nudge us to reach beyond our comfort zones to be your hands and feet. May we know that you, Lord, give us the power and strength to do it all in your name. Thank you, Jesus, for the joy you have placed deep down in our hearts. Amen.
Thursday, December 15, 2016
1 Thessalonians 2:19
For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?
As stated in Luke 12:39-40, “But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You must also be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Every day is a good day. Through the grace of God he has given us everything we have. We all came into life with no belongings, and some day we will leave life on earth with what we came. The beauty of nature and the provisions we have are a gift from God to use and not to possess. Our time on earth is short compared to the eternal life we are promised by believing in Jesus Christ. Let us start each day remembering Psalms 118:24. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Dear God, we give thanks to you for all we have, as we know your love for us endures forever. Amen.
Friday, December 16, 2016
Say among the nations, “The Lord is king! The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved. He will judge the peoples with equity.” Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord; for he is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth.
King David says in Psalm 96, “The Lord is coming!” Sing a new song! The song is a song of grace for grace is coming down at Christmas with the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Let all God’s creation rejoice, the sea, the fields, and the trees of the forest.
Recently, Helen and I had an opportunity to get off the interstate and travel a back road from North Baldwin County up to the small towns of Uriah, Frisco City, and Monroeville. We were struck by the towering majestic pines along the narrow road and the wide fields filled with corn, cotton, and peanuts, ready for harvest. Truly, God’s creation is awesome.
We should rejoice, along with all creation, not just for what He provides, but that He COMES. Let us prepare our hearts during the advent season for this wonderful event.
Dear Lord, as we approach this wonderful time of year, let us pause from our busy lives and quietly remember why we celebrate. Amen.
Saturday, December 17, 2016
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
Among the first to hear of the birth of Jesus Christ were shepherds tending their flocks by night. An angel of the Lord surprised them and frightened them. The glory of the Lord shone around them. The angel told them not to be frightened as he brought them good news. The Messiah, Jesus the Christ, had been born in Bethlehem and he would be a Savior for them. This brought them great joy, and they went to Bethlehem to see him. They found him lying in a manger. They told Joseph and Mary what they had see and heard. Mary treasured these things in her heart. The shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard.
Our Father in heaven, we thank you for the great joy of the birth of thy Son, Jesus Christ. Help us to follow his lead on the path that leads to eternal life. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
Sunday, December 18, 2016
“Prince of Peace”
The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you. The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.
The “Three-Fold Blessing” from Father, Son, and Holy Ghost…
“The Lord bless you and keep you…” How comforting, how truly blessed am I to have a Lord that, with all the people in the world, blesses and keeps ME! He’s with me always. When I may stray from the path he desires for me, he’s always there, waiting for me with open arms to welcome me back saying “I forgive you child, I love you.” ALWAYS! I begin every single night’s prayer with, “Heavenly Father, thank you so much for the many blessings that you have given me in my life.” My mother and father, wife, family, friends, too very many blessings to count.
“The Lord make his face to shine on you and be gracious to you…” Facing me, shining upon me, and providing all my needs is my Lord and yours. The kind of love that only a Father and Lord could have. His graciousness in his mercy, his compassion and kindness, and his preparing us and promising us of an eternal home not made by human hands, eternal in the heavens. Oh, what a Lord have we!
“The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace…” Not hiding his face from, nor shying away from us, but directly facing us and providing for us shows his true love for all his children. The peace that we have, given by him, when we might be lonely, sad, or scared is like no other nor could be provided by no other. Add the promise of eternal life and what more could we ask for?
During this Advent season, let us continually praise our Lord for his blessings, graciousness, and peace that he gives each and every one of us, each and every day.
Monday, December 19, 2016
“Prince of Peace”
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
2016 has been quite a trying time for us, as I am sure for many others. But the fall season, and wonderful holidays it brings with it, always seems to cheer one’s spirit. Another occasion that usually brings much joy is the anticipation of the upcoming birth of a baby! Christmas wraps both of these feelings into one glorious package! For us, this is an extra special year as our family is awaiting the births of a great niece and a great nephew – one before Christmas and one shortly afterwards!
Reading the above scripture always fills us with excitement and expectation during a normal year. This year it just accentuates and accelerates our excitement! It brings us closer to what Mary and Joseph must have felt hearing those awesome words. Neither of us has any children of our own, so being so close to where our family lives and being able to really share in this experience only enhances this scripture for us this year.
Dear Heavenly Father, help us fully grasp the enormity of this scripture – the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Counselor and Lord. Amen.
Dawn Campbell and Nancy Stander
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
“Prince of Peace”
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River[a] to the ends of the earth.
Our Lord came to us that first Christmas as a tiny, helpless, baby boy, born in a stable to middle-class parents; but he grew to be powerful, not in the sense that the world recognizes power. His power was of a gentle nature, but no less strong and enduring. Yes, he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, not even a fully-grown one – not very kingly, one would think. A few days later he proved his strength, however, by suffering terrible agony for all of us – for ALL OF US! Then he conquered death by rising out of the grave, not as a fierce warrior emerging coated with armor and brandishing all kinds of weapons, but as our gentle Savior.
The Book of Revelation, however, paints a uniquely different picture of Jesus. It has him returning to earth as a judging conqueror, waging war against the forces of evil and defeating them entirely on the battlefield of Armageddon, casting them forever into eternal fire. Not very gentle-sounding here, is he? It is then that the scripture above will be fulfilled: “He will take away the chariots and war-horses and break forever the bow.” The fleet of the righteous will be put into mothballs for eternity. The weapons of war will be left to rust because they will no longer be needed. What a marvelous future we have in the world to come, living with our again gentle Lord!
Let us rejoice at the coming celebration of the birthday of our Christ. What a joyous, yet humbling time of year. Ya gotta love it!
Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of Christmas, for the joy of having you in our lives and in our hearts. Let the true light of the Advent season shine forth from us for all to see. To you be the glory. In Christ’s name. Amen.
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
“Prince of Peace”
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Christ will leave them a legacy, the gift of “peace.” And this peace is more than a meaningless sound or even than a true wish. He speaks of it as an actual possession which he imparts to them. “Peace on earth” was the angels’ message when they announced his birth; “peace to you” was his own greeting when he returned victorious from the grave.
Christ gives his peace because HE gives himself and in the bestowal of his life he bestows, in so far as we possess the gift, the qualities and attributes of that life. His peace is inseparable from his presence. It comes with him, like an atmosphere; it is never where he is not. If we open our hearts by lowly faith, love, and aspiration for his entrance, we too may be at rest; for His peace, like all which he is and has, may be ours.
Our Father, we thank you for the gift of your Son, Jesus the Christ. During the season of opening gifts may we open the most wonderful gift of all; the peace of God which passes all understanding. Amen.
Mary George Smith
Thursday, December 22, 2016
2 Thessalonians 3:16
“The Prince of Peace”
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with you.
As a child, peace for me was the calm safety that I felt in a loving family. As a teenager peace was a feeling of freedom and independence from that same family. As an adult peace was a feeling of contentment and tranquility that I was doing well professionally and that everything in my life was the way it should be. But, my worldly, shallow idea of peace is a false peace that never lasts very long and is frequently shattered by my fears, doubts, anxiety, anger, pride, and bitterness.
Colossians 1:20 says that Christ made peace with God for us “through the blood of His cross.” Ephesians 2:14 says, “Christ is our peace.” It is more than wonderful, more than amazing that Christ’s first coming in Jerusalem was not only to save our souls, but also to grant us His divine peace. For those who put their trust in Christ, there is blessed assurance that all is well with God and that He is with us during the storms of life. He is the Lord of peace and the prince of peace. Hallelujah!
Below is a prayer written by Pope John Paul II.
Lord Jesus Christ, who are called the Prince of Peace, who are yourself our peace and reconciliation, who so often said, “Peace to you,” grant us peace. Make all men and women witnesses of truth, justice, and brotherly love. Banish from their hearts whatever might endanger peace. Enlighten our rulers that they may guarantee and defend the great gift of peace. May all peoples on the earth become as brothers and sisters. May longed-for peace blossom forth and reign always over us all.
Friday, December 23, 2016
“Prince of Peace”
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
I love picking up sea shells. I like white, colored, and shiny shells. I carefully select my special beach treasures until I begin seeing incredible beauty in the irregularity of shapes, the disparity of sizes, and in broken pieces. It reminds me how our Savior, the Prince of Peace, unites us in our diversities and challenges into one body. The Prince of Peace enables us to see beauty in the seemingly nondescript. How awesome is that?
In retirement I teach therapeutic horsemanship to special needs children. Children with broken, disfigured bodies experience freedom in the movement of a horse. Children lost within themselves giggle and squeal sitting tall on a horse. Fearful children demonstrate confidence controlling the large equine. Children with physical or emotional challenges are empowered on the back of a powerful animal. While many stare and wonder what is wrong with these children, I am thankful the Prince of Peace enables me to see beauty in these children and experience the peace they freely share.
My shells and students are like me. None are perfect, whole, or shiny, yet each is beautiful. Together we are members of one body in peace. When my faith falters, these special children share theirs with me. They minister to me every second of our brief time together. I leave our lesson with a renewed sense of purpose in my faith and with the assurance that he who is our anchor unites us in our differences and provides whatever we need to address our challenges. He is indeed our Prince of Peace!
Our most gracious Heavenly Father, thank you for sending the Prince of Peace who enables us to experience joy and see beauty in things even when they are not pure, whole, or shiny. As we anticipate Christmas help us share a gentle and loving presence so that others may come to know your Son, your ultimate gift, our Prince of Peace. Amen.
Saturday, December 24, 2016
“Prince of Peace”
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
What a fitting scriptural reference point for Christmas Eve. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” What can we do but rejoice, not only today, but “always” and in all ways; for a child is born, a Son is given. From prison Paul writes to the Philippians. What should have been a time of great darkness and torment for him. Paul instead offers this exhortation to “not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” He urges us to prayer, to draw closer to God in our times of need and yet to still rejoice, always. It is in that rejoicing that the peace of God that surpasses our ability to comprehend, a peace that is greater and more full of wonder than our greatest personal darkness, a peace that sent his only Son to dwell among us; it is this peace of Jesus Christ that will guard your heart and mind. What foundation does Paul give us to build this kind of faith? In the fifth verse, he simply states, “The Lord is near” – near in both space and time. Paul could be referencing Jesus’ second coming. Yet, he could also be illustrating the presence of Christ among us, the presence of Christ in our lives now. On this Christmas Eve, we celebrate the birth of Emmanuel, God with us, Jesus the Christ who is present with us in our anxiety and our joy and to whom we say again: Rejoice!
Dear Lord, on this Christmas Eve, we lift our hearts in joyful prayer. We give thanks to you for the most precious gift of your only Son, Jesus Christ, who is ever present with us. Help us to spread your peace, your gentleness, your kindness and mercy to all. Be forever in us and work forever through us, and as we continue to draw nearer to you through Christ Jesus, help us to rejoice always and in all ways! Amen.
Dr. James Seay
Sunday, December 25, 2016
“Prince of Peace”
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the Lord returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes. Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace…”
I often hear the above verse from Isaiah misquoted as “How beautiful are the feet of the messenger…” Although Handel likewise removes “upon the mountains” in one of his arias from Messiah, I think the distinction is important for the context of Isaiah. To Isaiah, the messenger’s feet become beautiful upon the mountains.
Those living in the mountains during the time of Isaiah would have been people living on the fringes of society. Often a refuge for outcasts, scriptures share with us that even King David took shelter in the mountains during times of political upheaval and rebellion. It may be during this time of year, when families get together that you yourself may be thinking of heading to the hills to escape the warpath of great aunt Susie or the political diatribes of your cousin Joe. Or, on a more serious note, you may have been camping out in the mountains for some time seeking refuge or solace. Perhaps you will be spending the Christmas season in the hills of loneliness or amidst the mountains of the ICU and you are waiting for a message like the one that Isaiah receives.
When Haiti was devastated by the massive earthquake in 2010, a news reporter was dumbfounded when amidst the rubble and terrible destruction people began singing hymns. How could this be? How could anyone be able to sing at such a time as this? It was because, despite the terrible circumstances, the message had been heard. And what makes it beautiful is that it can be heard even in the mountains, unto the fringes. It can be heard by those who are outcasts and those battling diseases. It can even be heard by those who are in the midst of terrible storms and circumstances, and by those whom society refuses to hear. The message of salvation can be heard even when the noise of our busy lives try to drown it out. We know it to be true because so long ago a child was born whom we call Immanuel, God with us… a God who meets us in the messiness of our human lives and existence… a God who travels to the ends of the earth — to the far off mountains or wherever we may be hiding — and there finds us. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the God who meets us where we are and brings us the message of peace.
However far we may have strayed or however far into the mountains we may have traveled, thank you Lord for searching us out and bringing to us the message of peace. We pray that we are able to receive it and likewise share it to this world that needs it so desperately. In Christ’s name. Amen.
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